Canada vs. Australia
Tuesday, October 15; 3 pm ET
Craven Cottage, London
Streamed live on Sportsnet.ca
Canada and Australia have two big things in common heading into their friendly on Tuesday at the home of Premier League club Fulham FC: Both teams are coming off a string of disappointing results, and both count Holger Osieck among their former managers.
Osieck led Canada to an unexpected triumph in the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and was at the helm of Australia when they qualified for Brazil 2014 earlier this year. But the Socceroos have struggled mightily since then – losing their last two games by identical 6-0 score lines – leading to Osieck's dismissal over the weekend, just eight months ahead of the World Cup.
Even though their World Cup ticket is already booked, the Australians will no doubt be motivated for the clash with Canada, not just to wash away the taste of their recent humiliating defeats, but to show the team's new manager – whoever it may be – that they're worthy of inclusion in next summer's tournament roster.
Canada, meanwhile, are in much the same boat in their second camp under Benito Floro; but, of course, without a World Cup berth to look ahead to. Les Rouges are in full-on transition mode as Floro searches for the mix of players that will lead the program forward.
Floro, however, doesn't expect that the turmoil around the Australian camp will change his team's approach to Tuesday's match.
"For us, it doesn't matter because we plan to play thinking of our system, our plan," he told reporters in a conference call on Monday.
That plan won't include Atiba Hutchinson, who came into camp with a minor hamstring injury and has since returned to his club in Turkey.
Canada and Australia last met in 1993, when they contested the CONCACAF/OFC intercontinental playoff in World Cup qualifying. Canada won the first leg, played in Edmonton, by a score of 2-1. The second leg, played in Sydney, also ended 2-1.
Kicks from the penalty mark were needed to determine who would advance. Two massive saves from a young Mark Schwarzer clinched a 4-1 victory on penalties for Australia, who eliminated Canada from qualifying for USA ’94. (Australia also failed to qualify, as they lost a subsequent playoff against Argentina.)
CANADA TEAM OUTLOOK
To say it’s been a bad 12 months for Canada would be an understatement.
After crashing out of World Cup qualifying with a humiliating 8-1 loss in Honduras almost exactly one year ago, the team has scored just one goal in 10 games (three draws and seven losses), with their most recent result being a 1-0 loss to lowly Mauritania last month.
There is some reason for hope, as a couple of young, attack-minded midfielders have opened eyes for their clubs in MLS this season. Russell Teibert, 20, and Jonathan Osorio, 21, have combined for seven goals in 2013.
Combined with the relatively experienced presence of Iain Hume, Marcus Haber and Tosaint Ricketts (all of whom have scored for their clubs in recent weeks), this Canadian squad will be aiming to at least end its year on a somewhat positive note – with another goal.
AUSTRALIA TEAM OUTLOOK
The Socceroos already have their ticket booked for Brazil 2014, having qualified back on June 18 with a 1-0 win over Iraq – but have stumbled badly since then. They lost twice and drew 0-0 with South Korea at July’s East Asian Cup, before being thrashed 6-0 by Brazil in a September friendly and then 6-0 by France on Saturday.
The Australian roster features a number of familiar faces, including Tim Cahill (and his New York Red Bulls teammate David Carney) and former West Ham and Everton man Lucas Neill. But the side doesn’t include a number of other Aussie veterans, including Schwarzer (109 caps) and Brett Emerton (95 caps).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Canada – Kyle Bekker: It’s been a rather curious year for the 23-year-old midfielder, his first as a professional. After being selected No. 3 overall by Toronto FC in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, he’s played just 155 minutes all season for the MLS club, but has managed to amass 569 minutes for the senior national team in 2013.
Bekker has shown flashes of skill (particularly on set pieces) and was a standout at the MLS Combine. Are TFC under-rating him? Or is he being overvalued by a national team that’s desperately starved for depth? The game against Australia may provide another chance to see who’s getting it right as it relates to Bekker.
Australia – Mitchell Langerak/Matthew Ryan: Osieck made some waves when he opted to leave goalkeeping legend Schwarzer out of the lineup for the friendlies against France and Canada. When asked last month about the selection, Osieck insisted 41-year-old Schwarzer was still his No. 1 choice overall, but, “If I keep playing him, what about the others?"
Langerak, 25, had a nightmarish debut for the national team in Saturday's 6-0 loss to France. This could mean 21-year-old Ryan, with two Australia caps to his name, starts against Canada.
Whichever one gets the nod, they'll be in behind a defense that's been porous of late, and against a team desperate to show some offensive punch. But they'll also know it's one of their best chances to show that they could be Schwarzer's successor in the years ahead.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Lars Hirschfeld (Valerenga/Norway), Milan Borjan (Sivasspor/Turkey).
DEFENDERS (7): Nikolas Ledgerwood (Hammarby/Sweden), Ashtone Morgan (Toronto FC), David Edgar (Burnley/England), Adam Straith (Wehen Wiesbaden/Germany), Doneil Henry (Toronto FC), Marcel de Jong (Augsburg/Germany), Daniel Stanese (Augsburg II/Germany).
MIDFIELDERS (6): Julian de Guzman (Skoda Xanthi/Greece), Kyle Bekker (Toronto FC), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Stefan Cebara (unattached), Samuel Piette (Fortuna Dusseldorf II/Germany).
STRIKERS (5): Iain Hume (Preston North End/England), Tosaint Ricketts (Bucaspor/Turkey), Simeon Jackson (Eintracht Braunschweig/Germany), Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United), Marcus Haber (Notts County/England).
GOALKEEPERS (2): Matthew Ryan (Club Brugge/Belgium), Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund/Germany).
DEFENDERS (6): Lucas Neill (Omiya Ardija/Japan), Luke Wilshire (Dynamo Moscow/Russia), David Carney (New York Red Bulls), Sasa Ognenovski (Umm-Salal/Qatar), Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough/England), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo/Netherlands).
MIDFIELDERS (12): Mark Bresciano (Al-Gharafa/Qatar), Brett Holman (Al-Nasr/UAE), Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar/Australia), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace/England), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory/Australia), Dario Vidosic (Sion/Switzerland), Tommy Oar (Utrecht/Netherlands), Nikita Rukavytsya (FSV Frankfurt/Germany), James Holland (Austria Wien/Austria), Tom Rogic (Celtic/Scotland), Oliver Bozanic (Luzern/Switzerland), Jackson Irvine (Kilmarnock/Scotland).
STRIKERS (4): Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Joshua Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus/Japan), Robbie Kruse (Bayer Leverkusen/Germany), Mathew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt/Germany).